Green Imaging Technologies Inc., Knowledge Park, Fredericton, New Brunswick
Stepping Stones to Commercialization Being imaginative has a lot to do with doing what others are not doing, especially in a research environment. Often, one lone person starts the engine. But commercializing the ideas that spin out of doing things differently takes a team. Step One: Passion
Step Two: People
Dr. Bruce Balcom
Jill and Derrick Green
In the late 1980s, when Dr. Bruce Balcom started to think seriously about Magnetic Resonance Imaging research, the field was blossoming in the medical world. MRI technology was exceptionally well-suited to imaging people. But what Balcom wanted to explore was imaging other materials, on less obvious subjects than humans. He was thinking about porous materials, such as concrete. But then, he began to think about porous rocks.
In 2005, Balcom made a call to Derrick Green to propose a start up venture to commercialize the technology coming out of the lab.
At first glance, rock seems a far less suitable subject matter compared to humans. But although analytical analysis might be difficult, it was not impossible. Because rock cores are porous, often containing water and oil, the possibility for imaging existed. Left to right: Derrick Green Jill Green Dr. Bruce Balcom
In 1993, Balcom was charged with developing a state-ofthe-art MRI lab at the University of New Brunswick. As Balcom established the lab, he brought in research and infrastructure funding allowing further, more in depth exploration of alternate MRI applications. Balcom’s early ideas were well recognized academically, and he was also awarded the prestigious NSERC Steacie Fellowship for 2000/2002, of which only four were awarded nationally per year. “One of the outcomes of university research is research papers,” explains Balcom. “If the ideas that are the subject of these research papers have commercial or potential merit, at a very early stage we apply for patent protection. If the idea is good, we can follow up with it later.” Balcom’s thriving lab began turning out papers, students and ideas. Many of the ideas generated in the lab had potential, and a few in particular seemed almost ready to go. Balcom and his colleagues recognized that potential, and they were also astute enough to know inventing IP and commercializing IP requires entirely different skill sets. Luckily, Balcom happened to know just who to reach out to get things moving in a commercialization direction, Derrick Green, a former PhD student Balcom had supervised in the UNB MRI lab.
Derrick and wife Jill, both engineers, were well established in promising careers in Cleveland, Ohio. But they had stayed in regular contact with Balcom on return visits to their home province. Although they were taken aback at his pitch, they were interested enough to mull over the concept of coming back to launch an entrepreneurial venture. The couple visited UNB to explore how a business arrangement might work between a start up and the lab as well as what support was available to help launch. Together with Balcom, his lab, and the university, they developed a framework agreement that laid out how research from the lab would flow into a company. The agreement allowed for open communication necessary to commercialize research. The Greens then examined the lab’s IP and honed in on one idea in particular, visualizing rock core samples with MRI technology.